Got Burgoni?By Lana Hazel
Researchers Try to Prolong Shelf Life of Meat Using Fruit.
Animal science major Nathan Tapp has found that a Tahitian fruit could be the key to revolutionizing the meat packaging industry. His research shows that adding noni (Morinda citrifolia) pulp to ground beef patties prevents them from discoloring as quickly, which extends the shelf-life of the meat by about two days.
“This could save grocery chains millions of dollars each year,” Tapp said.
Ground beef usually shows discoloring, or starts turning brown, after 36 hours, and consumers won’t buy meat after it has a 30 percent discoloration, according to scientific studies. With the noni, the meat remained red after four days.
The immune-stimulating noni fruit has been considered a cure-all in Polynesia for illnesses and diseases ranging from arthritis and depression to AIDS and diabetes, and the fruit juice is sometimes consumed as a dietary supplement. In the rodeo circuit, it is used to calm horses.
In the meat, the noni acts as an antioxidant to keep the meat a bright red color. Ground beef oxidizes at a faster rate than whole muscle products, and the noni prevents the oxidation, enhancing the color stability.
Tapp grew up on a farm in Gravette, Ark., where his dad was an agriculture teacher, showing limousine cattle. He was a state FFA officer and started college intending to become a veterinarian. He became interested in meat science his freshman year, and that interest grew as he conducted two different research projects in that area.
Tapp, working with professors Jason Apple and Janeal Yancey on his undergraduate research, mixed noni pulp with coarse ground beef at concentrations of zero, two, four and six percent noni—a mixture he termed “burgoni.” He used a 9.5-mm plate to grind five batches of each concentration into 113-gram patties and packaged the meat in a simulated retail display.
After four days, the six percent noni patties were still red, while the control patties were completely discolored. The two percent patties were slightly less discolored than the control, and the four percent patties were showing some discoloration but mostly red. The incorporation of the noni improved ground beef by increasing the shelf life at least one to two days, Tapp said.
However, ripe noni is considered to have a rather unpleasant taste and foul odor, and the taste test results could be the one problem with implementing the research in the industry.
“I’m confident that if consumers are notified it is a healthy product they won’t find it objectionable,” Apple said. “But we are lowering the concentration to five percent.”
They expected the issue of taste to be the challenge the whole time, Tapp said. “I don’t think it’ll do the best in the U.S., but other countries that use noni more wouldn’t perceive it as off-flavor as much.”
Tapp, 22, was selected to present his research at the 2010 American Society of Animal Science Southern Section Meeting, and his name appears on a patent for his research, along with the professors and Tahitian Noni International, the company that donated the fruit for the research.
“I’m surprised how well it went,” Tapp said. “I don’t think any of us were expecting it to go that well.”
Tapp graduated from the University of Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and an agribusiness minor in May. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in meat science at Texas Tech University where he received an assistantship in the department of animal science. He eventually wants to work in research and development for a food company.
Animal science major Nathan Tapp worked with others in the meat processing plant on campus to create hamburger patties that contained the pulp of a Tahitian fruit called noni. These “burgoni” patties, pictured here, extend the shelf life of hamburger patties by up to two days, which could save grocery stores a lot of money.
Tapp’s research has gained regional and national attention. He won the southern section of the American Society of Animal Science undergraduate research competition and presented his research in February in Orlando. He also was awarded the American Meat Science Association’s Undergraduate Achievement Award.